Sherlock Holmes once solved the mystery of a disappearing racehorse by noting “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” But, a Scotland Yard detective objected, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Holmes’s laconic reply: “That was the curious incident.”
Today, in Washington, the dog that isn’t barking is the defense budget. It is the biggest issue that no one — at least no one outside the defense policy community‚ is talking about.
There are plenty of warning signs that the defense budget is too small to meet the United States’ global commitments, and that military readiness is suffering with dangerous consequences. Back in June, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that having returned to the military after four years of retirement, he was “shocked by what I’ve seen with our readiness to fight.”
What shocks a hardened warrior like Mattis? Defense analyst Dan Goure notes: “the Army has only three brigade combat teams out of more than 50 fully manned, equipped and trained for major conflict…. Due to a lack of spare parts and insufficient maintenance dollars, only about half of Navy and Marine Corps front line fighters are currently available for combat. In addition, the Air Force is short some 1,000 pilots even though its size has shrunk significantly over the past decade.”